Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

The 2013 NFL season is just one week away from beginning with preseason action kicking off on Sunday, Aug. 4.

More than three dozen former Florida Gators are currently working out with their respective teams and trying to either keep or earn roster spots for the upcoming year.

Below are select updates on some of these Gators for the first full week of training camp from July 21-27.

QB TIM TEBOW, New England Patriots: His first full practice with his new team generated its fair share of excitement with some fans in attendance occasionally chanting his name. Though he is listed as the third-string quarterback – and therefore worked behind center in 11-on-11 drills during practice – Tebow also participated in drills where he caught the ball and attempted to break a tackle. In other words, New England may have more planned for him than head coach Bill Belichick wanted to admit initially. “I just do what I’m told and work as hard as I possibly can to do the best job I can with whatever I’m asked to do,” he said.

Comcast SportsNet‘s Patriots beat writer Tom E. Curran described Tebow’s practice as, in one word, “horrendous.”

After practice, Tebow was swarmed by the media and questioned about former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez. “It’s just heartbreaking and sad, and all my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that were involved,” he said. “I understand why you [the media] have to ask all the questions; that’s part of doing your job. Part of mine is listening to instruction, and we’ve been told not to talk about it.”

Tebow was happy to defend former Gators head coach Urban Meyer, however. “I feel like Coach Meyer is a great man, one of the best I’ve had the privilege of being around,” he said. “He is someone that not only tries to win football games, he’s someone that tries to invest in young men’s lives and help young men grow. He cares very deeply about that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so close to him and why I’m proud of him.”

Read updates on more than a dozen other former Gators…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gators in 2013 NFL training camps: July 21-27

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Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: It’s Time

The 2013 NFL Draft is set to take place from April 25-27, and Florida Gators safety and 2012 leading tackler Josh Evans has kept you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft over the last three months via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

Evans’s second-to-last entry covers his final week as an amateur, which included another meeting with a prominent NFL franchise, multiple conversations with teams and the final preparations before he, his family and friends celebrate the conclusion of his journey either Friday or Saturday. Be sure to check back next week for Evans’s final entry as his Path to the Draft finally comes to a close.

Last week after my last entry, I met with the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday and Friday over here in New Jersey. Secondary coach Ed Donatell and I first met on Thursday night, went to dinner and had a nice conversation. We then went back to the hotel he was staying at in order to go over defensive schemes. They asked me to learn their personnel and philosophy of how they run things there. And then on Friday, when they worked me out, it was pretty much just a simulation of communicating and running the signals that we discussed on Thursday. It was almost like I had to take homework home and study my notes, learn a whole new scheme. Some of it was similar but some of it was different as far as what they called things. I had to learn it their way and then recite it back to them while showing what I could do on the field.

I have not had any more meetings since the one with San Francisco but did have a webcam interview this Tuesday with the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator [Bill Davis] and defensive backs coach [John Lovett]. We discussed what I have been up to recently, where I have been training and how I was feeling physically. We also went over their schemes and how they see me fitting into their system.

Aside from San Francisco and Philadelphia, other teams I spoke to within the last week include the Dallas, Minnesota, Seattle, Jacksonville and the New York Jets. I had conversations with all of those teams but also received calls from others that were making sure they had the correct draft day information for me – my birthday, what number they can reach me at, where I will be watching the draft.

Continue Reading » Josh Evans – Path to the 2013 NFL Draft: It’s Time

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FOUR BITS: Henry, Whitson, Harvin, Wambach

1 » The Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday announced that former Florida Gators punter Chas Henry has received a one-year contract. Henry, signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2011 season, remained the team’s starter heading into 2012 but was replaced at the start of the season with Mat McBriar. He tried out with other teams throughout the year but was not able to find a new job when all was said and done. In Tampa Bay, Henry will start out as training camp competition for incumbent starter Michael Koenen, who is signed through 2016. Henry averaged 44.0 yards per punt during his time with the Eagles; Koenen averaged 45.3 yards per punt during the 2012 season and also handles the Bucs’ kickoff duties.

2 » Florida junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, expected to enter the 2013 season as the team’s No. 2 starter, will be sidelined indefinitely with shoulder fatigue, the school announced. Whitson, who has missed significant time with multiple injuries during his sophomore season with the Gators, is a power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and devastating slider. He went 8-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 2011 but pitched just 33.1 innings in 2012 and went 4-0 with a 3.51 ERA. His shoulder has long been an issue, however, and Baseball America reported on Wednesday that he met with Dr. James Andrews for a consultation. As of press time, the results of that meeting are unknown. Whitson originally joined Florida rather than signing a $2.1 million offer from the San Diego Padres, which selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. “We knew there was a possibility he might not pitch the first two weekends,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We were kind of prepared for this, so it hasn’t really changed a whole lot in regards to this weekend.”

3 » As the 2013 NFL league season gets closer to starting (March 12), reports about wide receiver Percy Harvin and the Minnesota Vikings continue to swirl. Now that it is out in the open that Minnesota is almost definitely trading Harvin before the season begins, reports are noting Harvin is looking for a new contract similar to what top-tier wideouts Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have received (eight years, $130-150 million with $50-60 million guaranteed) and will holdout from minicamp and training camp if he does not receive one. And while the Vikings are looking to trade Harvin due to a combination of cost and questionable off-the-field demeanor, running back Adrian Peterson – who won the league’s most valuable player award this past season – does not want the only other playmaker on his team going anywhere. “To be honest with you, I don’t know if we will or not. But me, individually, and giving you my opinion, I wouldn’t trade him for nothing,” he said on KFAN-FM in Minneapolis, MN. Harvin was garnering MVP consideration during the first half of the season and still led Minnesota in receptions (62) and receiving yards (677) despite playing just nine games (leaving the last one early after injuring his ankle).

4 » U.S. Women’s National Team captain and former Gators striker Abby Wambach played in her 200th international match on Wednesday, scoring a goal at 51’ and helping lead the United States past Scotland 3-1. Now the eighth American to play at least 200 games as a member of the USWNT, Wambach is also inching closer to former teammate Mia Hamm’s world-record international goals mark. Her shot into the net on Wednesday marked the 153rd of her career (63rd on a header), moving her within five goals of Hamm’s record of 158.

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“Strong possibility” Dan Quinn leaves for Seattle

UPDATE: Dan Quinn leaves Florida for Seattle Seahawks

Could the Florida Gators be in line for their sixth new coordinator in five seasons?

On Thursday, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was hired as the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Immediately thereafter, Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s name popped up both as a potential replacement for Bradley in Seattle or as his hire for defensive coordinator in Jacksonville.

According to ESPN insider Adam Schefter, “there is a ‘strong possibility’” that Quinn “will return to Seattle to replace Gus Bradley.” He also noted via Twitter that the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles are interested in Quinn.

One year ago, after a season in which he led the Gators to a top-10 defense in his first year at the helm, Quinn reportedly turned down an offer to coordinate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ defense after Greg Schiano was hired as head coach.

Continue Reading » “Strong possibility” Dan Quinn leaves for Seattle

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TWO BITS: Coaching hires = spots for Tebow?

1 » On Monday, OGGOA opined via Twitter that the Chicago Bears potentially hiring Montreal Alouettes (CFL) head coach Marc Trestman could open up another potential destination for former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow (as a reserve). Two days later, in the wee hours of the morning, Trestman’s hiring was announced. So what exactly is the connection between these two? Not only did Trestman work as Tebow’s quarterback coach and consultant in his training before joining the NFL as a rookie, the coach adamantly defended the player on numerous occasions and propped up his ability to transform into a solid signal caller at the next level.

“I believe, in the right environment, Tim Tebow will figure this out,” he told The Morning Journal in April 2010. “He doesn’t have explosive arm strength, but he has more than adequate arm strength to throw the ball in the NFL and make all the throws. I saw him do something totally different in seven or eight days. I can only imagine what he’s going to do in one year or two years, because he’s going to outwork everybody else and find a way to figure it out.”

He continued, “If you’re a coach and you love coaching quarterbacks, you’d love the opportunity to develop Tim Tebow. That’s going to be the question. Guys are going to be asking themselves, ‘Wouldn’t I love to go to work every day and coach this kid? Is there enough there I can work with to make this happen in our system?’ When I go into that room with him he’s going to demand of me all the help I could give him, and he’s going to want me to demand of him everything he can give us. It’s a beautiful thing, because it all begins in the quarterback room.”

Whether or not Trestman will consider bringing Tebow in as a second- or third-string developmental quarterback during his first year as a NFL head coach remains to be seen. Tebow has become toxic to some in league circles because of the pressure his fan base levies against a team and how the New York Jets handled him this season. But a strong coach who is willing to say up front that Tebow is being added as a developmental player could succeed with him long-term.

2 » “Read option” is the phrase of the year in the NFL and with so many teams having success with mobile quarterbacks that use their legs nearly as often as their arms, Tebow may very well find a home somewhere as a backup in one of those situations. Another potential landing spot that will be using some form of the spread offense in 2013 is the Philadelphia Eagles, which just hired Oregon head coach Chip Kelly on Wednesday. The team already has Michael Vick under contract through 2015 and will likely be drafting a young, mobile signal caller to back him up but might still have a spot for a player like Tebow on the roster. Just weeks after it looked like Tebow may no longer have a home in the NFL, some interesting opportunities have most certainly opened up. Whether any of them have legitimate interest in the former Heisman Trophy winner is another story altogether.

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SIX BITS: ESPN, Lattimore, Steelers, Henry, Noah

1 » Earlier this week, ESPN‘s Kirk Herbstreit broke down Saturday’s game between the No. 2 Florida Gators and No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks on the network.

2 » After releasing a star-filled injury report earlier in the week, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said Thursday that it looks like almost all of his big-name players will be in action on Saturday against Florida. The one exception, of course, is defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who has an injured shoulder but will also be suspended for punching a player during last week’s game against LSU. Running back Marcus Lattimore (hip) is still not slated to start but is expected to play after going through a full practice on Thursday. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (foot) is also good to go, as are a number of players who were hit with a flu bug over the course of the week, Spurrier said.

Check out four more BITS in this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: ESPN, Lattimore, Steelers, Henry, Noah

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FOUR NFL BITS: Tebow, Pouncey, Henry, Harvin

1 » A New York Daily News report late Wednesday, citing an anonymous source, notes that former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is expected to request a trade from the New York Jets if he remains the team’s back-up heading into the 2013 season. Citing Tebow’s competitiveness and love for football, the source is not stating fact but rather opinion, making the NYDN report not newsworthy but rather pure speculation. “I think he will be a good solider,” the source said. “At the end of the year, I think he will express those concerns to the Jets. He will want to move on. The one thing about Tebow is he’s the quintessential team player. He would never do anything that is going to undermine the team. But he’s football-aholic. It’s in his blood.”

2 » In his second year with the Miami Dolphins, center Mike Pouncey is making his brand new coaching staff feel completely confident in his abilities to lead and direct the team’s offensive line for years to come. “I thought Pouncey played an excellent football game,” new head coach Joe Philbin said of his actions on Sunday in Miami’s season-opener. “I thought he did some things that I haven’t seen a lineman do in this league in a long time. I thought he played well.” Pouncey not only makes all of the calls and calls out the protections for the line but is also becoming arguably its most trustworthy player aside from left tackle Jake Long. “He’s an intense player and every single play he’s finishing guys 10, 15 or 20 yards downfield,” Long told the team’s website. “He tries to pancake a guy whenever he can and he does a great job of facilitating.” Pouncey noted that his ability to be dominant on the second level makes up for some of what he lacks in overall size. [Click here to bet on the Miami Dolphins]

3 » Punter Chas Henry nearly lost out on his starting job this offseason just a year after being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles to an undrafted free agent contract. Henry told Comcast SportsNet this week that Philadelphia signing two-time Pro Bowl punter Mat McBriar was a move that gave him an immediate sense of dread. “When they brought him in, I saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “He’s a two-time Pro Bowler. I figured, ‘OK, that’s it for me here.’” Instead of getting down on himself, however, Henry used McBriar’s addition to the roster as motivation and spent the entire offseason either equaling or besting him in practice and preseason appearances. The Eagles wound up keeping Henry as he has an equal leg and is a better holder on field goals. He rewarded them by setting a franchise record for highest punting average in a single game, booting three balls over 60 yards and finishing with a 55.0 yard average. “I just needed to learn how to become an NFL punter,” Henry explained. “It’s a totally different game from college.”

4 » Since some offseason theatrics that included missing practice and demanding a trade, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has once again become a beloved and valued member of the team. The St. Paul Pioneer Press (and former Gators beat writer Jeremy Fowler) pointed out last weekend that Harvin “has a chance to rewrite his legacy – and possibly land a long-term contract extension in the process” by having a healthy and dominant season, something he has been trying to accomplish since his rookie year. Minnesota turned to him on Sunday when they needed a boost to their slow-moving first-half offense. Harvin finished the game with six receptions for 84 yards and five carries for 20 yards as well as three kickoff returns for 88 yards. His productivity in the NFL has never been a question but being able to do it over at least a 16-game season is what the Vikings will want to see from Harvin before handing over the dough.

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FOUR NFL BITS: Tebow, Cooper, Nelson, Black

1 » It was a busy weekend for New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow (at least as far as the media was concerned). With training camp beginning for the Jets, ESPN.com’s James Walker took a look at the many roles he could play with the team. That was before camp actually began and Tebow had a rough first day in which he threw some wobbly passes and was “heckled” by New York fans. It was later reported that the hecklers consisted of 3-5 total fans or less a quarter of a percent of those in attendance. Tebow also made headlines, believe it or not, for running shirtless in the rain (video below).

Linebacker Bart Scott, one of Tebow’s teammates, came out in support of the quarterback. “[It’s] his humility. How can you ever not accept somebody who has humility, works hard, who’s a great teammate? I knew Tebow well before he came here. He showed me the respect to seek me out and asked me how he could be a better pro. I mean, guys don’t do that,” Scott said, according to the New York Daily News. “You see the cameras that follow him. Half of you [media members] wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t here. But he takes it all in stride and it never affects his relationship with his teammates. We understand it comes with the territory and we’re able to deal with it. It’s New York.”

Tebow also sat down for an interview Monday with ESPN‘s Hannah Storm:

2 » Tebow’s former teammate with the Florida Gators, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, was injured in training camp over the weekend and is expected to miss at least six weeks of action. Cooper was trying to haul in a deep pass from QB Michael Vick when he landed hard and fractured his left collarbone. He is set to undergo surgery on Monday and is unlikely to return to action until at least Week 2 of the regular season. Cooper was said to be set as the team’s No. 4 receiver heading into the season and should resume that role once he is completely healthy.

3 » Cooper was not the only former Gators wideout to give his team a scare this weekend as Buffalo Bills WR David Nelson also went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Luckily for Nelson and the team, doctors diagnosed him as having a strained tendon in his right leg and he will only miss about a week of practice.

4 » Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Ahmad Black was concerned when his team cleared house and hired a brand new coaching staff this offseason. A project of former head coach Raheem Morris, Black was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft but cut before the regular season after a severe high-ankle sprain caused him to miss much-needed preseason practice and in-game action. He was immediately signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad and earned his way on to the active roster at the end of the season, registering five tackles and a fumble recovery in four games. When Morris was fired, Black’s future was up in the air simply because it was unknown how the new coaching staff would view his potential. So far so good, according to The Lakeland Ledger. “I think he has really great feet,” assistant defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley told the paper. “I think he’s got great quickness. He’s very instinctual. He’ll go play the ball in the air. He gets to the ball. He’s one of those guys who is always around the ball and always making plays.” Black will likely continue to see most of his work on special teams but could factor into the Bucs plans on defense this season depending how he performs over the next few weeks.

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